Just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend, one of the most anticipated films of the year debuts Friday the 13th with Dominican-American actor Victor Rasuk in a key role. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the erotic thriller by E.L. James, has been selling out showings in advance of its official opening, and two sequels have already been announced.
In “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Rasuk plays aspiring photographer Jose Rodriguez. His character is a romantic rival of lead Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) for the affection of Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele).
For Rasuk, 31, “Fifty Shades” is just the latest step on his journey to success. Discovered on the streets of his Lower East Side neighborhood in New York City while still a teenager, Rasuk starred in the short film “Five Feet High And Rising,” which won critical acclaim at the Independent Spirit Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. He went on to study at Professional Performing Arts High School and H.B. Studios. Next came work in films including “Raising Victor Vargas,” “Che,” and “Lords of Dogtown.” On television, he has appeared in everything from HBO’s “How To Make It In America” to “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and the final season of “E.R.”
Here's and excerpt of our interview with the Latino actor on the rise:
The Morning Rundown
Get a head start on the morning's top stories.
NBC: How did you get started as a performer?
VR: How it happened was back in the summer of 1998, school was out and I was walking in this park that was like my backyard, Tomkins Square Park. I had learned how to play basketball there, hung out there. It was a hot day, and I was just coming from the pool with my friends. I saw a bunch of NYU students making a student film, and I told them I wanted to be in it. I was bugging them, saying, “What are you doing? Can I be in it?” They said to leave my number and they would call me. And they did call me! They came through on their word. One film led to another, and that’s how I started.
VR: It was great. The vibe was amazing. It was one of those films where, from my first day on set, I could tell that everyone was excited and gung-ho to make an adaptation of the book that fans (of the book) and new audiences would all like. Everyone worked hard to capture the spirit of the book. E.L. James, the author, and our director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, got along so well; I thought they did an amazing job of following Anastasia’s coming-of-age story.
NBC: Will you be in the upcoming sequels to “Fifty Shades”?
VR: I am pretty sure I will be. When you read the book, it has a breakup ending. Then in the second book, the main characters meet at Jose’s first photography exhibit. So I am pretty sure I am in it… I am hoping I am!
NBC: If you weren’t an actor, what do you think you would be doing?
VR: If I hadn’t been actor I like to think I would be a teacher. Throughout my whole life, teachers have instilled a lot of confidence and self-esteem in me. There are several teachers who were huge influences on me at a time when I had no idea what I was doing with my life, and I wasn’t thinking about the future. They really helped me find my place, my way in the world.
NBC: Do you have any new projects in the works?
VR: Right now my main commitment is to “Stalker” until we finish in late March. Then I will see what my options are; I am not sure to be honest. It has been amazing journey, how I stumbled into acting. I mean, it was only by chance that I got into this business at all. Everything has been unexpected, so whatever, I just roll with the punches. I am in a great place and I am enjoying the ride.